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Release # 51-20


The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today in an online format that was open for the public to follow live. It’s the second commissioners meeting to be held only online in compliance with state guidelines to minimize the effects of COVID-19.

Among meeting highlights was the adoption of a new CWD Response Plan that will guide the Game Commission in battling chronic wasting disease, which always is fatal to the deer and elk it infects and annually has expanded into new areas of Pennsylvania. The full news release on the CWD Response Plan is being issued separately and is available to view at www.pgc.pa.gov.

Other meeting highlights appear below.





NIGHT-VISION OPTICS PRELIMINARILY APPROVED FOR FURBEARER HUNTING​



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change that would allow handheld and sporting-arm mounted night-vision and infrared optics to be used while hunting furbearers.

The change will not become effective unless the board casts a second vote at another meeting to adopt it. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26.

The preliminarily approved change would permit night-vision and infrared optics only when hunting furbearers. There are hunting seasons for the following furbearers: raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums, striped skunks, weasels, bobcats and porcupines.

Today’s vote follows the recent passage and signing into law of state House Bill 1188, which permits the Game Commission to regulate night-vision and infrared optics. Previously, the hunting use of these devices was prohibited by state law.

The board took swift action to begin the process of regulating these devices in response to comments the agency has received since the bill’s passage.

“In the days since HB 1188 became law, the Board of Commissioners has been flooded with comments asking us to move forward with adopting regulations permitting the use of night vision equipment,” said Board President Charlie Fox. “We are confident that the use of this equipment will provide predator hunters an additional tool in their toolbox, one that will allow them to be efficient and safe when hunting predators.”

The regulations voted on by the Board were drafted by the Bureau of Wildlife Protection which reviewed data from other states that permit the use of night vision equipment and determined there was no safety concerns regarding their use for hunting furbearers in Pennsylvania.





E-BIKES REMAIN UNLAWFUL ON GAME LANDS​



A proposal to allow state game lands users to ride Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles in the same manner they can ride traditional bicycles now today was voted down by the board.

The commissioners gave preliminary approval to the measure in January, but tabled it in April. Today, the measure was rejected by a 5-3 vote, with Commissioners Stanley Knick, Brian Hoover and Timothy Layton voting in favor of permitting e-bikes on game lands.

While it remains unlawful to operate e-bikes on game lands, the 2020-21 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is issued to hunters and furtakers at the time they buy their licenses, erroneously states on Page 16 that Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are permitted on game lands. This is incorrect. All e-bikes continue to be prohibited everywhere on game lands, including on roads normally open to public travel. E-bikes cannot be used on game lands while hunting or trapping. The prohibition on their use will continue to be enforced.

Prior to a vote on the measure, Commissioner Michael Mitrick questioned the need for e-bikes. Mitrick said that game lands primarily serve to provide wildlife habitat and places to hunt, trap and otherwise interact with wildlife, and permitting even limited recreational riding could compromise that purpose.

Commissioners Charles Fox, Scott Foradora, Dennis Fredericks and Kristen Schnepp-Giger joined with Mitrick in voting to keep e-bike use on game lands unlawful.

A Class 1 e-bike is defined as a two-wheeled bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of 750 watts (1 horsepower) or less that provides assistance only when the rider is actively pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.

A Class 2 e-bike is defined as a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and a throttle-actuated 750-watt motor that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. The bike can operate without pedaling.








ALL GAME-LAND USERS NEED ORANGE FROM NOV. 15 TO DEC. 15​



During the height of the fall hunting seasons – from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 – nonhunters using state game lands long have been required to wear fluorescent orange, except on Sundays.

But now that expanded Sunday hunting has been approved, additional hunting will occur on three Sundays within that timeframe.

And the Board of Game Commissioners today adopted amended regulations that require hikers and other nonhunters to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent-orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees, when visiting state game lands at any time during that period.

Those using shooting ranges are exempted from the requirement.





PROPOSED DEER AND BEAR CALIBER REQUIREMENTS VOTED DOWN​




The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today unanimously voted down a proposal that would have established 24-caliber as the minimum caliber for hunting deer and bear with centerfire rifles.

Commissioner Dennis Fredericks, who had asked for the proposal to be drafted, said the board received many comments from hunters opposed to prohibiting smaller-caliber centerfire rifles such as the .223 and .22-250 for big-game hunting, and that continuing to permit use of these could benefit the recruitment of young hunters, as well as the retention of aging hunters.

Fredericks said the Game Commission always considers wildlife’s needs in setting hunting regulations, and it will work with ammunition manufacturers and experts to establish guidelines for hunters using smaller calibers for big game, and work to inform the public about them.





FOX ASKS FOR REVIEW OF ANTLERLESS DEER LICENSE APPLICATION PROCESS​



Near the close of today’s meeting, Commissioner Charles Fox, the board’s president, asked Game Commission staff to explore the potential for issuing antlerless deer licenses directly through the commission.

While the mail-in antlerless application process is mandated by state law, and changing it would require legislation, Fox asked staff to proactively explore the possible alternatives for application and award of licenses should the law permit changes. Commissioner Fox noted that the commission has heard from hunters who would support revising the current system in favor of a more customer friendly process for applying for an antlerless license.





REGULATIONS COULD CHANGE REGARDING CROP DAMAGE BY CANADA GEESE​




The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would pull state regulations into line with recently changed federal guidelines that provide farmers and other landowners additional time to address problems from resident Canada geese.

Landowners properly registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were previously allowed to destroy Canada goose nests and eggs on their properties from March through June, and properly permitted agricultural producers could kill small numbers of adult geese causing crop damage from May through August.

The proposed changes would allow take of nests and eggs year-round, and expand the period during which take for agricultural depredation is allowable to April through August.

Other registration and permitting requirements for both types of control activities remain unchanged.

Game Commission staff said incorporating the federal changes into state regulations isn’t expected to greatly increase the taking of Canada geese by permit, and little or no impact on overall goose populations is anticipated.

The measure will be brought back to a future meeting for a second vote.





ENERGY AGREEMENT APPROVED​



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a five-year non-surface agreement to develop natural gas and oil beneath State Game Lands 134 in Plunketts Creek Township, Lycoming County.

Alta Marcellus Development LLC, of Houston, Texas, would pay the Game Commission a one-time bonus payment of $3,932,500, as well as future royalty payments, as part of the deal.

All payments will be added to the agency’s Game Fund.





MORE THAN 470 ACRES ADDED TO STATE GAME LANDS​



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a host of land acquisitions that will add more than 470 acres to state game lands.

The approved acquisitions are:

· The acquisition of more than 154 acres in Mount Pleasant Township, Wayne County, by donation from Regency Marcellus Gas Gathering LLC. The land is an indenture into State Game Lands 159, with access provided from Creamton Drive. Regency has offered to donate the land as replacement habitat to mitigate for lost wildlife resources and recreational values stemming from natural gas pipeline work on State Game Lands 12 in Sullivan and Bradford counties.

· The acquisition of more than 35 acres in Ararat Township, Susquehanna County, by donation from The Conservation Fund. The land is an indenture into State Game Lands 236, with access provided from Ridge Road. The Conservation Fund, acting as a conservation agent, is acquiring the property with funding provided by Williams Companies for voluntary mitigation as a result of impacts associated with the Constitution Pipeline project in Susquehanna County.

· The acquisition of more than 13 acres in Pike Township, Berks County, by bequest of the late Dwight K. Gehman. The property, which is accessed from Keim Road, is approximately one mile south of one of the four separate parcels that comprise State Game Lands 315.

· The acquisition of more than 43 acres in Union Township, Fulton County, by purchase from The Conservation Fund. The land, being purchased for an option price of $400 per acre to be paid from the Game Fund, adjoins State Game Lands 49.

· The acquisition of about 231 acres in Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County, by purchase from Central Pennsylvania Conservancy Inc. The land, being purchased for an option price of $400 per acre to be paid from the Game Fund, adjoins State Game Lands 211. Access to the parcel is from existing game lands.



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Glad to see they voted down the minimum caliber rule for deer. My son started with .223 for deer as well as many other mentored youth.
 

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I am good with all of it except the negative vote on e-bikes.

Right now there are many of them being used on the game lands every day right here in good ole Elk County. We have a rails-to-trails system that runs for about 20 miles through one of our game lands. There are dozens upon dozens of e-bikes on it every day by people who are both hunters and non-hunters alike. Most of them have no idea e-bikes are illegal or for that matter that they are even on game lands. Those people aren't going to quit riding and they aren't going to fined for it even if they did try to stop them. Even if they decide to charge them the cases will be tossed in court because they had no idea they were doing something illegal.

I continue to see more and more hunters using them on game lands and other public land as well. All the Commission accomplished with not allowing hunters to use them is penalize the hunters, trappers and fisherman, who are the ones paying for the game lands and its maintenance while the non-hunters continue to ride illegally and unimpeded.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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I am good with all of it except the negative vote on e-bikes.

Right now there are many of them being used on the game lands every day right here in good ole Elk County. We have a rails-to-trails system that runs for about 20 miles through one of our game lands. There are dozens upon dozens of e-bikes on it every day by people who are both hunters and non-hunters alike. Most of them have no idea e-bikes are illegal or for that matter that they are even on game lands. Those people aren't going to quit riding and they aren't going to fined for it even if they did try to stop them. Even if they decide to charge them the cases will be tossed in court because they had no idea they were doing something illegal.

I continue to see more and more hunters using them on game lands and other public land as well. All the Commission accomplished with not allowing hunters to use them is penalize the hunters, trappers and fisherman, who are the ones paying for the game lands and its maintenance while the non-hunters continue to ride illegally and unimpeded.

Dick Bodenhorn
If it is known that people are riding them on game lands then they should be stopped and fined. Not knowing the law would never be an excuse for shooting an illegal buck or not tagging a deer. If they can't take the time to learn the law then a ticket would be a good teaching tool. My guess is they would learn in a hurry when it is costing them money. If those cases are tossed in court then the judges are not doing their job.
 

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I am good with all of it except the negative vote on e-bikes.
Not sure if you listened to or watched the meeting on youtube, but an amendment was offered to allow Class I by hunters, trappers, and fisherman only. It received a second and a 4-4 tie vote which resulted in the original language being then voted on which received a 5-3 in the negative.

All the Commission accomplished with not allowing hunters to use them is penalize the hunters, trappers and fisherman, who are the ones paying for the game lands and its maintenance while the non-hunters continue to ride illegally and unimpeded.
Agreed.
 

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If it is known that people are riding them on game lands then they should be stopped and fined. Not knowing the law would never be an excuse for shooting an illegal buck or not tagging a deer. If they can't take the time to learn the law then a ticket would be a good teaching tool. My guess is they would learn in a hurry when it is costing them money. If those cases are tossed in court then the judges are not doing their job.

That might sound good but it isn't even close to reality.

First of all it would be a summery offense and viewed by the court as a relatively minor thing. Then when a person who is a none hunter, and has thus never had to be familiar with the game laws, shows up in court and testifies that they had no idea they were even on game lands let alone knew they were doing anything illegal there is no way the Judge is going to impose a fine on them.

In fact the Game Wardens generally earn't even going to cite most of those people because they know what the outcome is going to be, with them being the bad guy and the judge being the good guy. A few of those cases and the Game Warden soon figures out that there is no sense in even wasting their time and they might as well be the good guy instead of the Judge. That Sir is the reality of the situation.

But, in the case of the hunters they know or at least should know they are in violation and thus should be and would be cited if they are riding an illegal e-bike on the game lands. In those cases the Judge is much more likely to issue the hunter a fine for doing what he should have known was illegal.

So the bottom line is the person who has the most invested in the ownership and management of the land is the one who gets the penalty for using it while the others get the free ride. The Commissioners set themselves up to have it backwards on who should be riding e-bikes on the game lands in my opinion.

E-bikes are already here and being used on the game lands in ever increasing numbers. It is going to become a bigger and bigger issue every year.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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Written warnings the first time they are caught would prove they knew they were breaking the law if they were caught again.
 

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Written warnings the first time they are caught would prove they knew they were breaking the law if they were caught again.
Agreed. Making excuses for why people cannot be waned or fined is kinda crazy. Adding some signage in popular places also goes a long way to negating the "I didn't know" routine. Walking past a posted sign in Ohio will get you a ticket. Not seeing the sign is not viewed as a legitimate excuse for violating the law.
 

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We hear all the time that not knowing the property lines isn't an excuse for trespassing, but now its ok for E-Bike riders to not know the rules for properties they decide to ride on? What about dirt bikes? Quads?

Another example - if I put my boat into Lake Wilhelm which is part state park and part SGL ... not knowing where the SGL begins and my motor is prohibited would still get me a fine. I fail to see the difference in the E-Bike example.
 

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If it is known that people are riding them on game lands then they should be stopped and fined. Not knowing the law would never be an excuse for shooting an illegal buck or not tagging a deer. If they can't take the time to learn the law then a ticket would be a good teaching tool. My guess is they would learn in a hurry when it is costing them money. If those cases are tossed in court then the judges are not doing their job.
We hear all the time that not knowing the property lines isn't an excuse for trespassing, but now its ok for E-Bike riders to not know the rules for properties they decide to ride on? What about dirt bikes? Quads?

Another example - if I put my boat into Lake Wilhelm which is part state park and part SGL ... not knowing where the SGL begins and my motor is prohibited would still get me a fine. I fail to see the difference in the E-Bike example.
I simply pointed out the REALITY of how it is, based on over three decades of law enforcement and dealing with the court system.

How people wish it was or think it should be is COMPLETELY irrelevant to reality.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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Just saying that if they were given a warning the first time then they would not be able to use the excuse that they didn't know, thus removing any excuse for not being prosecuted the next time they are caught. Not sure but i think they could also be fined for the warning if they were caught again. Seems like a simple solution to the problem if LEO want to stop the illegal behavior. Reality to me has always been ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.
 

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I'm willing to bet there are exemptions with a rail to trail running thru game lands just like the AT running thru game lands. As long as riders stay on the RTT, their e-bikes are legal, providing they are legal there to start with.

I could possibly see class 1 bikes as you need to pedal to get motor assistance, but never a class 2 bike which will go without peddling. But really uf you need an e-bike, start getting in shape now instead of whining once hunting season starts.
 

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But really uf you need an e-bike, start getting in shape now instead of whining once hunting season starts.
Most do not use e-bikes while hunting because they are "out of shape".
 

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I see ebikes once in awhile on SGL but pretty much every Sat/Sun I'm out I see quads and side by sides. Most guys are riding without their plates so no one can identify them so they know it's wrong and are trying to evade being caught.
 

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Most do not use e-bikes while hunting because they are "out of shape".
Why else would you need and e-bike? I do 600 foot climbs on my bike on gated GL roads with no problem. My biggest problem is having a hybrid bike so I do slip more on rocky trails than I would with a mountain bike.

Would those pushing e-bikes be satisfied with just class 1 bikes?
 

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Why else would you need and e-bike?
Well. Lets see. The ones that are designed for hunters and/or campers have fat tires which run better over soft ground than standard mountain bike tires and do not make ruts. They are also designed with gear hauling in mind. I can cover ground quicker on my ebike than I can on my Gary Fisher mountain bike which leaves less of a scent signature and gives more hunting time. I can cover ground, not only quicker, but can do so without working up as much perspiration while hauling an extra 20-50lbs of gear like treestands, sticks, packs, crossbow, etc...... So in essence, I can carry more, get there faster, hunt longer, leave less scent, build up less scent, and leave less of a footprint with with my ebike than I can with my Fisher.

Kinda like those hi tech beepers on bird dogs. They sure are not needed, but they sure are nice sometimes.

Would those pushing e-bikes be satisfied with just class 1 bikes?
I can only speak for myself but I rarely use throttle. When off road there isn't enough power on 750w machines using throttle to do much. I mostly use it to get started on uphill grades or on farm trails or paved roads once I get out of the timber. Its not a huge advantage in off road settings.

Throttle isn't what some people make it out to be on ebikes. Yes, there are some very powerful ebikes out there where throttle is quite impressive with 1000w motors and such, but since we are talking about 750w or less, throttle isn't the huge factor some think it is.
 

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Speaking for myself, I wanted the ebike to help get harvested deer out of the woods. I'm older now and hunt alone. I get plenty of opportunities to harvest deer but don't because of the long drag back to my vehicle. Last deer I harvested was a 5 hour drag out using a wheeled cart. During archery season that would get me out of the woods about 11pm.

Ebike was always about allowing hunters a little easier access. The argument of "get in shape now", is grossly flawed. We could have said that to all those hunters using crossbows or in lines with scopes, but we didn't. We gave them an opportunity to make a little easier.

Ebike should be looked at as a tool for HUNTERS and TRAPPERS, and not re recreational riding.
 
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